We need to figure out the who, the what, the how, and then finally, the when. When should I deal with the situation? You know, should I do it now? Right now? I mean, let’s get this taken care of right now. Should I do it later? Or, like, in the case of that letter, should I never do it.
At the bottom we have a continuum of ways to express anger: unhealthy way - get it all out, healthy - you express it. The healthy way - you redirect or release, unhealthy - you grin and bear it, basically stuff it. Unhealthy way - you explode versus healthy - you communicate. Discharge - that’s, you know, sometimes there’s just little hurts; I mean it’s not worth having some big thing over someone who said something that you know that they didn’t really mean anything by it. And there are three or four of those things and you don’t want to make a big deal and you realize God doesn’t want you to confront people over every little thing but you got four or five of them? You know what I do? I get on the elliptical for 45 minutes. And you just blow it out, you thank God and you know they’re fallen and I’m fallen it’s not that big a deal, I know their heart, I know their character.
Every time something happens you don’t have to get it all, you know, we wouldn’t have anything else to do the whole rest of the day, would we? And so there are times where if it bugs you, it sticks with you, it’s not resolved, you’ve prayed about it, you’ve realized God says, “Look, confront this either in person…” and he lets you know when to do it, how to do it… There’s a lot of stuff that loves covers a multitude of…. Okay? And so you just love them, you forgive them, but you’re emotions are all jazzed up. So take a walk, listen to some music, do something positive, get a work out. You know, take a bag and bite it. I don’t know. I’ve seen them do that stuff on TV, I don’t know if it works, but, do some different activity.
As you think about turning anger from that wild stallion out of control to that horse that will do what you say, I’ve given you a methodical process and placed here in front of you now a summary of how you can discover your tendencies and walk through the process of the who, the what, the how, and the when. The questions are for you to discover something about yourself: do you tend to gravitate towards confrontation or not confronting when you’re angry? Do you tend to run from confrontation when you shouldn’t or do you tend to confront when you shouldn’t?
Question. Have you ever written an anger letter and then did you send it? Why or why not? Are you glad you did or didn’t? Then there’s a list of questions here - they’re very diagnostic. These are just kind of for you personally, where you answer the following questions about the “when”. You can go through those and you can just see, yes, no, sometimes. Do I tend to run from conflict? Do I tend to do this, do I tend to do that? And what you’ll get there is a process where all I’m wanting to do is help you get a little picture of, this is how I tend to deal with this issue because most of us have never thought about it.
By the way, some of you, especially little obsessive compulsive down on you with a lot of condemnation, a la, stuffers - don’t go through here going, “Oh gosh, I’m terrible, yes, I do that.” There’s not a right or wrong. Its like, “Do you have blue eyes or brown?” “Oh, I got blue eyes, I’m sorry.” It’s okay! This is how you are and this is where you’re at today and the God who loves you, died for you, raised from the dead, placed his spirit in you, and has a home waiting for you, brought you to a place to say, “Hey, guess what. I love you and I would like you to turn this nemesis called anger into a friend.” The only way you can move forward is to ask yourself “Where am I now? This is how I tend to respond. Good, bad, ugly, and different. Well, you’re a person. Now I know how to respond in the future.” Does that make sense?
Now, it’s one thing for us to come together and say, “Okay, anger’s a neutral emotion. It’s given by God as a gift for self protection. It produces many positive things but it’s very dangerous. It’s a wild stallion. It can be a great servant to us or cause total destruction in our lives and relationships”. But what’s the scripture have to say about it? God, help us, give us clear instruction from your Word about how do I manage my anger or I would say even, how do I tame my temper, because it is a big issue.
A little research before we jump in, the average man loses his temper approximately six times a week. The average woman loses her temper about three times a week. Men tend to get angry at things not working, circumstances. Women tend to get angry more about relationships. Single people tend to get angry almost twice as often as those that are married. Men are more likely to be physical in their anger. And all of us, listen to this, are twice as likely to express our anger at home, more than at work or school. That is a wild stallion that needs to be dealt with. Lord, help us.
Speaking to a group of people under very intense pressure, many of them had lost their homes. Many had been disowned. Many married someone and now their mate doesn’t believe in the Messiah, they’ve just come to Christ, so their mate has abandoned or divorced them, and their life is falling apart, and James would say, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials.’ And then later he would say to them, “If you lack wisdom ask God, he’ll show you what to do.” And then he talks in that early chapter about how to get perspective on difficult circumstances. He promises them blessedness if they can endure through very, very difficult times. But he knows there’s a temptation when under pressure, to take a shortcut, to get really angry at yourself, at other people, at circumstances, and at God.
We pick up the story in James chapter 1 and in James chapter 1 verse 19, the half brother of our Lord says, “My dear brothers.” Notice the kindness and the warmth. “Take note of this. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Now notice the purpose clause or the why, “For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” What a statement. My anger at my mate, my manipulation out of my anger, my blowing up, my stuffing, my expressing, my wild stallion, out of control, does not produce the righteous life that God requires. It doesn’t fulfill the righteous, it doesn’t make relationships right, things don’t get better when I use anger out of control. And so he says, “Guys, one, two, three” - there is a three step process given by God to begin to tame the wild stallion of your anger and mine.
Step one is be quick to hear. The word “quick to hear” literally is, the word hear means an eagerness to listen. It doesn’t mean you just hear a word, it means openness, readiness, availability and desire to learn and to hear God’s truth - God’s word. And this word “to hear” A.T. Robertson and his grammar says, “This word ‘to listen or to hear’ is not simply a attentive, assertive, clear listening, but it’s listening for truth from God in the situation in order to apply it.” So he says we all want to be quick to hear. Our immediate response, the first thing in God’s anger management plan, to God, others, our circumstances and our anger, is to be receptive listeners, not reactionary responders.
Most of us, our anger, BAM, it just comes out. He says, “No, no, no, no, no, no.” Step one, develop an attitude of reception instead of reaction. This is really important for fellow spewers. It’s so easy to be blunt and critical. By the way, I think there are Christian and non-Christian spewers. Non-Christian spewers vomit their anger. Christian spewers, because that’s not very socially acceptable, we just say, blunt, harsh, uncaring, negative, critical, words that dismiss people’s feelings or dismiss their value and often, quote a verse afterwards to justify how we have just not treated them well. So don’t always think of spewing as, “Well gosh, I don’t scream and yell at people.” I mean, when I was walking out of my house, I didn’t scream at my kids. If someone said, “you yelled at your kids”, I didn’t. Is this yelling? “Annie, make your bed right now.” But listen to the tone of voice. It was 100% spew. “Ryan, have you done your chores?” What it was, was anger.
Now, I don’t want people in the church goin’, “He’s a screamer, the pastor’s an idiot.” I’m not gonna do that I mean, I’m smart enough to not do that, and I want to be more holy than that and I can justify that. “I’m the, I’m just giving Biblical instruction to my family on helping them develop good life skills.” You know? No. I need to learn to be receptive instead of react.
As you feel the anger gauge going up, stop and listen and here’s the key question to ask: What is this anger telling me? Why am I angry? What’s going on inside? If you don’t get anything out of this entire time together, if you could remember that anger is a secondary emotion and it’s not the problem, it’ll change your life. I’ve learned to use the other words that help me, because you say to someone, “Are you angry?” “Oh no, I’m irritated. I’m frustrated.” You can call it whatever you want, you’re angry. Okay? When I feel that coming on, when I feel short, when I want to correct something, want to get it - get it now, and I can just feel this coming on….wait a second, that’s not the problem. The red light on the dashboard of my car, they tell me something wrong under the hood. The red light of anger is just God’s gift to me to say, “Chip, there’s something going on.” And by the way, sometimes, it’s a good thing. It’s injustice. It’s wrong. You ought to be angry. You ought to do something about it. So the red light doesn’t mean something’s always bad but it tells you there’s something beneath the issue. So the key question is, what is under the hood?
Step two: we’re to be quick to hear. We need to be slow to speak. Slow to speak literally - slow to begin speaking. For you grammarians, it’s an aggressive aerris. It’s not speaking slowly; it’s a warning against rash, hasty, unrestrained words that wound others’ lives. This is our interim response. Our initial response is just, don’t react, listen. What’s going on? Our interim response to God, others, circumstances, and our anger is to think before we speak and this takes practice and discipline. But listen to why it’s so important from the wisest man who has ever lived, he says, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” If you can just keep your mouth shut. Sometimes.
Someone said, “When we use sharp words, we usually cut our own throat” and I think they’re right. Proverbs 13:3 goes on to say, “He who guards his lips guards his life. But he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” And you know what, people will forgive you, but they don’t always forget. Right? Some of you, if we passed a microphone might say, “My second grade teacher told me I was dumb.” “I had a coach that told me, ‘You’ll never make it.’” “My dad always said to me, ‘You’re lazy. You’re lazy. You’re lazy.’” Have you forgiven some of those people who said things to you? Absolutely. You’ve not forgotten. And it marked you.
We’ve got to be very, very careful about what comes out of our mouth. Proverbs 29:20, “Do you see a man who speaks in haste, quickly, reactionary, there’s more hope for a fool than him.” Restrain your tongue. Buy some time. Get your mind in gear before your tongue gets engaged. How? You know, part of it is, remember the consequences. And the other is, just get practical. You know you. And so sometimes when you feel anger, just walk away. Just walk away. I don’t mean walk away rudely, but try “Will you excuse me right now? I need to do a little thinking” or just take a walk.
Thomas Jefferson, I mean literally, he would count to ten. He could feel the anger boiling up. He knows he’s about to say something, “One, two, three, four,” just to stop himself to think long enough. There’s life and death in the power of the tongue. Is life about to come out? Or is death about to come out? And we’re a people of habit. Some of you have learned to just blurt out things, you know, if it’s in your mind, you think it ought to come out your mouth. God would say that’s probably not a really good equation. You’re looking at a person who has had to work very, very, very hard on that because I’m a verbal processor. Well that’s kind of when I think out loud. But if I think something, I’ve just had it come out of my mouth, and you say, “Well how to you ever break that?”
Part of my journey has been, I made a commitment that when I said something to someone or about someone that I knew wasn’t the right thing, no matter how small, I made a commitment before God that I would go to them and apologize and make it right whether they were in the room or not. And I’m in a lot of meetings, I’m with different people, and sometimes leaders, and sometimes, look, you know, you gotta be really high-D, we gotta cut to the chase, what’s the bottom line, you know, we got this person in this situation, and he’s a great guy, doesn’t have the capacity, the organization has grown to here, we need to get to here instead of to get to there, you know. Great guy, would, you know, loving, kind, you know, he’s the kind of guy you’d want to marry your sister…but he can’t handle this job. We gotta find somebody else.
It can start sounding very much like the mission is all that counts and people don’t… And then people make a few little comments and you move on. And then, God says, “Don’t ever treat people that way, Chip.” And I’ve had to go to people and say, “Excuse me, brother, you’ve been here for a while and you know I’m kind of the new guy and things have been going downhill for a while and we’ve been reevaluating and I was in a meeting and these words came out of my mouth in reference to you as though all your contribution wasn’t valued. And I just want to tell you, I blew it and I sinned, I asked God to forgive me, will you forgive me?” I tell you what; you only do a half a dozen of those. I would encourage you, whatever mechanism you need, the key question you ask is: what must I do to prevent a verbal reflex response? I don’t know what it is for you. Do you count to ten? Practice whatever you need to do. A simple way, you might put a little star or circle in your notes around James 1:19 and 20 and memorize it. I cannot tell you, of all the things, this is a small rabbit trail, I’ll try to make it really small, in terms of transformation in my life, I don’t know if there’s anything that has helped me more than memorizing scripture.
When I was a young Christian, I was around a group that was really into scripture memory. I probably did it for the first three years with terrible motives. I was trying to memorize more verses than anybody else. You just can’t get the athlete out of me. You know? And it was wrong motives. But I would find myself praying and God would bring a verse and it was the answer. Someone asked me a question, God would bring a verse. I found myself ready to say something and God would bring a verse. And then I watched Jesus under spiritual attack and he didn’t say, “Excuse me, Satan. I think I need to get back to the synagogue and look at some of these scrolls? Okay Deuteronomy, here’s a good one. Thou shall not tempt the Lord… can you hang on just one second?...Thy God.” The average Jewish boy had the entire first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah, memorized.
Most of us watch 7 hours of television a day in our homes. That’s 49 hours a week. The average college graduate reads one book a year. The average high school graduate after he graduates doesn’t read another two or three books the rest of their life.
We have become a, soaking in, passive… All the research, for some that are concerned, is when you use your brain and exercise your brain and learn new things - that is the greatest prevention against Alzheimer’s. You know what, it’s true of everything, you either use it or you lose it. So I would just encourage you. The other is, I think there’s a really false view of how life change happens. We think trying hard and spiritual activities bring change. The Bible says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It’s thinking. If you think the same way, you think right now, 365 days from now you can try hard, give it your best effort, and you’ll be basically the same person. You have to think differently about God. Think differently about you. Think differently about sin. Think differently about the future. Think differently about the past. How? The Word. You renew your mind in the Word.
I think part of this, you can feel like, “Oh, I can’t do this. It’s a pattern and it just blurts out of my mouth and I’m a spewer and...” Yes, you can! But I’m just saying its hard work, it’ll take time, you can write some things on 3 x 5 cards, “Dear, God, I desire to learn to get control of my tongue and speak only as your Holy Spirit prompts me”. Write that down. James 1:19 on the back of the card you write out James 1:19 and just stick that in your pocket and read it in the morning, and read it before you go to bed, and you do that for a month and I’ll tell you what - your mouth will change, because you’re reprogramming your mind according to the Truth - and the Spirit of God takes the Truth of God’s word and He’ll bring about life change.
Number three: Quick to hear, slow to speak, third, slow to anger. There are a couple different words in the New Testament for anger. One, is you know you can almost hear it, its thumos, it means an explosion. And the other is orgay, and that’s this word here. It’s not so much about outbursts, but it’s harboring anger, resentful feelings, this anger that rolls around in your soul and your mind and your emotions, and over time, it builds. He says, “Be slow to anger.” Be slow to allow resentment and bitterness. This anger that just keeps growing and gnawing down in your soul, He says, “Be slow, don’t allow that to happen.” Ecclesiastes says, “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”
We had an immediate response to anger, be a quick listener. An interim response is you gotta be slow to speak. Get a hold of your tongue. The life changing response to anger begins when we replace reaction with reflection. Reflection. You think it through and guess where we are? We’re right back to what we’ve been talking about. You say, I’ve got this anger – reflection - Hmmmm - what’s underneath the hood. Then as you can see, we ask the basic questions that we’ve been talking about. What root issue, injustice, hurt, frustration, or insecurity is behind this anger? In other words, what’s going on inside? And we get back down to what we talked about earlier. You can say to yourself, “Okay, look, right, here it is. Here it is. Am I hurt?” And the tool is, an “I feel” message. Well, am I frustrated? Well I need to shift it from “I demand” to a “I desire” for expectations. Am I feeling threatened? Well, who’s firing the darts? Is there something I need to learn? And you go right back to our last session. That’s why I wanted to do this one next.
Then you’re really right back to ABCD. Quick to hear - okay I want to listen, respond. Slow to speak - I’m gonna stop stuff coming out of my mouth, and then I’m gonna be slow to anger - I’m not gonna, say, “Okay, anger is a symptom. A) I’m gonna acknowledge that I’m angry. B) I’m gonna backtrack to the primary emotion, C) I’m going to consider the cause of it and then D) determine the right response. Do I speak or not speak? Do I do it in person? Do I do it in a letter? Is it something that needs to be addressed or something that I just need to let go of and release to God?
Isn’t it amazing how scripture just very clearly lays out here’s how to address that wild stallion. Really what that passage is in James 1:19 and 20 is written to a group of people… you talk about an economic down time and pressure - basically he said, look, here’s the spiritual bit in the wild stallion of anger in your life to bring it under control so your anger serves you instead of severs relationships with people that you love.